The Best Books about Bipolar Disorder And 10 Subtle Symptoms ~ Updated

Okay, so this post is going to be dry and boring, but if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Bipolar, these are among the best books about the subject. I will probably add more as I run across them. The important thing here is to know you are not crazy, nuts or anything else. You have a chemical imbalance in your brain that affects your moods, and it is important to know that you are not alone, and that you can live a functional and productive life with this illness. Each of these links will take you to that book’s site on Amazon where you can purchase new and used copies. My other current favorite online bookstore is half.com where you can purchase books for a little under $5.00 per book. Some of these titles may be available there as well:

  1.  An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison (I cannot recommend this book more highly). It was the first I read on the subject and the fact that she not only has Bipolar Illness, but is a Doctor and researcher at Johns Hopkins gave me more hope that I could lead a “normal” life than any other book I have read. She researches mood disorders when she is not busy being a practicing psychiatrist. Of all the books written by Bipolar’s, I think this one is most important because it gives and honest accounting of what it is like to live with the illness while at the same time being a functioning, productive member of society. It is personal and it also offers clinical advice.
  2. Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher ~ I took a look at this book, and it details very accurately the life of a Bipolar even the early years when the author was a child. As I read the first few pages on Amazon, I had this very eerie feeling come over me, and I realized that was me as a child. Hyperactive, convinced that strange things lived under my bed (Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Werewolf), and that I would die if I were not completely covered from head to toe; not even a finger could stick out. I stayed awake as long as I could to be sure they wouldn’t get me or something would become uncovered.  This book is deeply personal while the same time offering clinical information on medications, side effects of those medications and a whole host of links to Bipolar or other Mental Illness sites; one of my favorites has always been http://www.crazymeds.com . This site has a lot of information on various medications used to treat many different illnesses, but Bipolar Illness is in there. The guy who maintains the site recounts his experience with different medications with a dry humor, but his information is really good. He explains in laymen’s terms what you can expect from various medications.
  3. Touched with Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the “Artistic Temperament”  by Kay Redfield Jamison ~ Examines the relationship between creativity and Bipolar illness. While not all artists are Bipolar, some form of “madness” does seem to be pervasive in the artistic community both now and historically. I have this book and have started to read it. It is a very interesting look at the connection between mental illness and the “artistic temperament.”
  4. Manic: A Memoir by Terri Cheney ~ I have not read this book outside of the few pages that Amazon tempts you with to get you to buy the book, but what I read described a mixed episode that resonated so realistically with me that I remembered my early experiences as a clinically diagnosed Bipolar. I had days where I was so high and so low all at the same time, the only choice to stop the “ride” was to end my life, at least in my eyes. But, I was riding a manic high at the same time. I would be cleaning furiously and crying my eyes out at the same time.  This book would appear to be a very personal and not clinical look at what it is truly like to live with Manic Depression.
  5. The Bipolar Survival Guide by David J. Miklowitz, PhD. ~ This one I have as well, and it offers up a plethora of ways to “survive” Bipolar disorder from medication and staying on it to things you can do to help yourself when you are having episodes to ways you can keep episodes from being so debilitating. He covers subjects like when you are just having a good or bad day, or if it your symptoms “talking.” He also offers up advice on not to let our illness run your life, and how you can be productive at work, and  function in personal relationships. It is a must have for all Bipolars that want to be as “normal” as possible.
  6. To Walk on Eggshells by Jean Johnston ~ For those on the other side of mental illness. It is a book about what it is like to care for a mentally ill person. A good thing to have if your loved one is mentally ill. 
  7. The Dark Side of Innocence: Growing Up Bipolar by Terrie Cheney ~ Chronicles what it is like to be a Bipolar child. Although there is a lot of controversy in the Psychiatric circles about whether Bipolar Illness can manifest as early as childhood, I have read way too many books where the person writing seems to be writing my life’s story. The violent, out of the blue outbursts, the absolutely bone-crushing depressions (no child should be attempting suicide at the age of twelve,  and that was just the first attempt, there were many more), the problems at school, the difficulty relating to people, the absolute certainty I had that everyone was against me (I still suffer from paranoia), the just wanting to isolate myself because then I was “safe” from other people, the bullying I experienced lets me know I was not a “normal” child. I was different somehow. most people called me “hypersensitive”. I do not think so. I think that I had a mood disorder that was not diagnosed because I never gave the psychologists and psychiatrists that my parents took me to a chance to even glimpse inside my head. Hell, I didn’t want to glimpse inside my head; it was a scary, dark place I just didn’t want to go. I escaped by reading voraciously.
  8. Surviving Manic Depression ~ A Manual on Bipolar Disorder for Patients, Families, and Providers  By E. Fuller Torrey, M.D and Michael B. Knable, D.O ~ is the most comprehensive, up-to-date book on a disorder that affects more than 2 million people in the United States alone. Based on the latest research, it provides detailed coverage on every aspect of the disorder ~ from understanding its causes and treatments to choosing doctors and managing relapses.
  9. The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide ~ What You and Your Family Need To Know By David J. Miklowitz, PhD ~ How can you distinguish between early warning signs of bipolar mood swings and normal ups and downs? What medications are available, and what are their side effects? What you should do when you find yourself escalating into mania or descending into depression? how you can get the help and support you need from family members and friends? How can you tell your coworkers about your illness without endangering your career?  Filled with information and practical advice, this comprehensive guide offers straight talk that can help you tackle these and related questions, take charge of illness, and reclaim your life.
  10. loving someone with bipolar disorder ~ Understanding & Helping Your Partner By Julie A. Fast and John D. Preston, Psy. D. ~ written specifically for the partner of a person with bipolar disorder. If you have a loved one with bipolar, you know how disruptive and straining this disorder can be to your relationship.You may experience feelings of fear, loss, and anxiety as well as a constant uncertainty about your loved one’s ever-changing moods. This book is designed to help you overcome the unique challenges of loving someone with bipolar disorder. With the supportive and helpful information, strategies, and real-life examples, you’ll have all the tools you need to create a loving, healthy and close relationship. (Julie Fast herself has bipolar illness as does her partner, John D. Preston, Psy. D. has received the Mental Health Association’s President’s award). This is an excellent book for somebody who is close to or loves a bipolar, it is also an excellent resource for bipolar people as it allows them a different perspective on their illness and it’s effects on those around them.
  11. Bipolar Symptoms: By Tammy Worth ~ 10 signs that mood problems may be due to more than a quirky or difficult personality
    1. Great MoodBipolar disorder is characterized by up-and-down episodes of mania and depression. During a manic phase, some patients can have a total break from reality.
      But hypomania, which is also a symptom of the disorder, is a high-energy state in which a person feels exuberant but hasn’t lost his or her grip on reality. 
      “Hypomania can be a pretty enjoyable state, really,” Dr. Bearden says. A person’s mood can be elevated, they may have a lot of energy and creativity, and they may experience euphoria. This is the “up” side of bipolar disorder that some people with the condition actually enjoy—while it lasts.
    2. Inability to Complete TasksHaving a house full of half-completed projects is a hallmark of bipolar disorder. People who can harness their energy when they are in a hypomanic phase can be really productive. 
      Those who can’t often go from task to task, planning grand, unrealistic projects that are never finished before moving on to something else.
      They can be quite distractible and may start a million things and never finish them, says Don Malone, MD, the director of the Center for Behavioral Health and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Cleveland Clinic, in Ohio.
    3. DepressionA person who is in a bipolar depressive state is going to look just like someone who has regular depression. They have the same problems with energy, appetite, sleep, and focus as others who have plain old depression, Dr. Malone says. 
      Unfortunately, typical antidepressants alone don’t work well in patients who are bipolar. They can even make people cycle more frequently, worsening their condition, or send someone into a break-with-reality episode. 
      Antidepressants can be downright dangerous in people with bipolar because they can send them into mania,
       he says.
    4. IrritabilitySome people with this condition suffer from “mixed mania,” where they experience symptoms of mania and depression at the same time. During this state, they are often extremely irritable. 
      Everyone has bad days, which is one reason this kind of bipolarity is much harder to recognize. 
      “We are all irritable or moody sometimes,” Dr. Bearden says. “But in people with bipolar disorder it often becomes so severe that it interferes with their relationships—especially if the person is saying, ‘I don’t know why I’m so irritable.I can’t control it.”
    5. Rapid SpeechSome people are naturally talkative; we all know a motormouth or Chatty Cathy. But “pressured speech” is one of the most common symptoms of bipolar disorder. 
      This kind of speech occurs when someone is really not in a two-way conversation, Dr. Bearden says. The person will talk rapidly and if you try to speak, they will likely just talk over you. 
      They will also sometimes jump around to different topics. “What’s kind of a red flag is when it is atypical for the person to talk like this,” doing it only when they are in a manic cycle but not at other times, she says.
    6. Trouble at WorkPeople with this disorder often have difficulty in the workplace because so many of their symptoms can interfere with their ability to show up for work, do their job, and interact productively with others.
      In addition to having problems completing tasks, they may have difficulty sleeping, irritability, and an inflated ego during a manic phase, and depression at other times, which causes excessive sleeping and additional mood problems. 
      A lot of the workplace problems can be interpersonal ones, Dr. Malone says.
    7. Alcohol or Drug Abuse ~ (See post on “Self-Medication”) : About 50% of people with bipolar disorder also have a substance abuse problem, particularly alcohol use, Dr. Bearden says. 
      Many people will drink when they are in a manic phase to slow themselves down, and use alcohol to improve their mood when they are depressed.
    8. Erratic BehaviorWhen they are in a manic phase, people with bipolar disorder can have an inflated self-esteem. 
      “They feel grandiose and don’t consider consequences; everything sounds good to them,” Dr. Malone says. 
      Two of the most common types of behavior that can result from this are spending sprees and unusual sexual behavior. “I have had a number of patients who have had affairs who never would have done that if they weren’t in a manic episode…during this episode they exhibited behavior that is not consistent with what they would do normally,” he says.
    9. Sleep ProblemsPeople with this condition often have sleep problems. During a depression phase, they may sleep too much, and feel tired all the time. 
      During a manic phase, they may not sleep enough—but still never feel tired.
      Even with just a few hours of sleep each night, they may feel great and have lots of energy.
      Dr. Bearden says staying on a regular sleep schedule is one of the first things she recommends for bipolar patients.
    10. Flight of IdeasThis symptom may be something that is hard to recognize, but it occurs frequently when someone is in a manic phase. People feel like their mind is racing and that they can’t control or slow down their thoughts. 
      This flight of ideas sometimes occurs with pressured speech.
      People with bipolar may not recognize or admit that their mind is racing out of control, says Dr. Bearden.

I have experienced every one of these symptoms. There have been times when by brain was racing so fast it could not keep up with itself, or I felt the absolute NEED to talk about nothing and everything. I have had episodes where I didn’t sleep for 5 days or I only slept an hour or two (do not let anyone tell you that warm milk will help. It won’t and it is gross). I have experienced “erratic behavior” although this particular symptom began when I was in my teens ( I was diagnosed at 33). I have abused alcohol and just about every drug that is out there, and done huge amounts of damage to my relationships with people because of it. I have lost jobs due to this illness, and problems at work caused by either manic episodes, or in my case, depressive ones where I just couldn’t face the idea of going to work. I remember this particular symptom from the time I was in grade school. Basically, I have experienced lately or within the last twenty years every single, last one of these symptoms. Any one who read my blog post yesterday would have seen irritability, lingering depression from the hospital visit, suicidal ideation to alleviate the depression, but definitely not great mood. At this point, i would give at least one arm and a leg for a manic or hypomanic episode. I  have just about had it with the paranoid depressions that I find myself in. Not all of them require hospitalization, but the very fact that I am even putting myself “out there” like this tells me, I am trying my damnedest to understand what has been wrong with me quite possibly since birth, but did not rear its ugly head until I was in my early 20s, and quite possibly, even earlier than that as I do recall mood swings happening since I was a child. One minute I could be your best friend, the next I was beating the tar out of you for saying something that I would now view as totally benign, but back then was the worst possible thing to tell me.


I do recommend reading as many legitimate books on the subject as possible from both points of view. It will go a long way toward helping you understand the illness on an intellectual basis. Acceptance is something that will come with time. But, the more you know, the safer you are from yourself.
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22 Comments

  1. What a fantastic post! Informative to the max, and also personal, and the two together. I hope you’re proud of this post. You should be.

    I had to smile about the “monsters under the bed” part. When I was a kid I had to be wrapped head to toe in a cocoon of covers. If I had to go to the bathroom in the night, I LEAPED like 3 feet out of the bed so they couldn’t shoot a hand out and grab me by the ankle–and then of course the reverse when getting back in bed! I wasn’t allowed to turn a light on because my mother is a “light sleeper” (undiagnosed type I bipolar) and even a crack of light under the door would wake her up, which was something you DIDN’T want to do! So I had to make that leap in pitch dark. I got good at it! One time I got hit by a car and got a bad concussion and was in the hospital for a week or so, and my parents came to visit and of course I was wrapped head to toe in a white sheet–my mother thought I was dead and screamed loud enough to wake up the whole hospital. LOL!!!!!

    Mixed episodes definitely SUCK. I LOVE hypomania though–wish I had more of it. Keep on keepin’ on–you’re great!!!!

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    • I love hypomania…..haven’t experienced that in a while. It seems like they managed to stabilize me at “mixed” which varies from severe (hospital) to mild (normal life). I don’t go up and down any more. I ride a kind of low frequency sine wave, and every the frequency between waves increases.

      That’s funny that you used to do the same thing I did about the “monsters under the bed.” Maybe if my parents hadn’t been so liberal with what I was allowed to read. I really wasn’t kidding when I wrote that I had been reading Poe since I was a child. I could read anything, I just couldn’t watch everything. I honestly do not know which is worse. I guess it depends on the imagination. My little sister freaked out when she had to read the “Tell-Tale Heart” in school. Scared her to death. Me, I thought it was a cool story. I dunno. I was a strange kid destined to become an unusual adult.

      I would so totally freak out if my mom did that in the hospital. Surely they told her that you were okay, or did they pull the “she was in an accident” thing?

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      • Oh, Poe! I loved and was fascinated by him from an early age. I had a giant “complete works” book and read it all, even the ones I totally did not understand like “The Scarlet Letter.” Oh, when I was sleeping in the hospital and my mom shrieked, I woke up with a start and she knew I was still alive. Yeah, “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a humdinger. That Poe, eh?

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        • I loved Poe. Still do and still have my gigantic books of his complete works in tiny little print that I had when I was a kid…..

          I am fascinated by him…never have been able to make up my mind if he was a bipolar depressive with a drinking problem, or just a depressive with a drinking problem. Of course, researchers and historians are tied 50/50 as well.

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          • AND might have been an Aspie too….hey, did he write Masque of the Red Death? I think so but whoever did, anticipated Ebola Virus by 150 years or so….astonishing. I kept on reading that one over and over, half horrified, three quarters fascinated. Yeah I know that adds up to more than 100…what can I do….

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          • Really, I had not heard that about him. But, yes, he did write the “Masque of the Red Death” which is one of my favourite stories by him. So that story was about Ebola? Will wonders never cease?

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          • I don’t really think it was about Ebola, because it hadn’t been discovered yet, but the way he describes the symptoms and signs of the Red Death could be a field manual.

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          • I started to read it last night, and it was describing either Ebola, or the skin eating staph infection. Either way it was pretty gross. But then that is Poe…….I think he let his dark side run a little to far. He was only in his 30’s when he died. I mean, I have a dark streak a mile wide, but not like him. I refuse to let have the liberty that he did. It killed him, that or alcohol or depression or manic depression.

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          • All of the above, I’d wager. Illness plus various substances….and I may be mistaken, but I think I heard somewhere that he had a touch of tuberculosis to boot. Just popped into my head: can you imagine a meeting between Poe and Fellini?

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          • How did you come up with Poe and Fellini? Yikes! I think that some very graphic things would come out of that…… hmmm, it is interesting though…..

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          • because of “death in Venice” where he paints a macabre portrait of how the venitians coped with the wholesale destruction–in desperately creative ways–

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          • Isn’t Venice where the Borgia’s (or the de Medici’s) ruled for some two blood filled centuries, or was that another Italian town I am thinking of?

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          • I can’t remember but I think you’re right, it was one of them. Will have to look that one up. (I’m short on time this AM otherwise I’d just google it LOL)! It would be fun to get together over beverages of our choice, eh? We seem to have similar minds for the macabre (and weird infectious diseases LOL)!

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          • That would be so cool if we could get together and have cocktails, an discuss our love of things macabre……haven’t been able to do that in a while. Everyone just thinks I am weird for being so interested in the darker corners of the mind….

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          • Oh heavens, THOSE people just don’t understand. So we don’t have to have much to do with them, unless we love them, and then we have to just put up with it. The Raven has been knocking at my chamber door since I was about 8, and although it is hard at times, I mostly enjoy it. Yes, cocktails, lovely. I live in Western NC. You can tell me where you are if you want to, and if you don’t I understand.

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          • Oh not a problem. I am a fan of the weird, the macabre, the dark, and the unknowable minds of those we consider to be evil that grew up in Central New Mexico. i blame parents for not censoring what I was reading at the same level they censored television. I was a child with a very active imagination, and I think that was probably more influential than they thought. Due to the amount I spent by myself, i had plenty of time to contemplate the darker nature of people.

            And, no, those people do not understand. They think you are preoccupied with death or something. They don’t realize the issue is the psychology of the subject. Although, I did have a boss that was really cool, and he knew about my rather sick fascination with serial killers (I just don’t understand them), and upon the capture of the Green River killer, A&E did a show about him and the ensuing attempts to catch him. My boss put a sticky note on my phone that said “Green River ~ A&E Tues. 7p”.

            I have a similar story. I became enamored of vampires when i was very little maybe 5 or 6. I found Poe when I was about 9, read “The Raven” and “The Masque of the Red Death”, and declared myself in love. i just figure it is part of who and how I am.

            Most people don’t even know that part of me exists. They see what I want them to see. That is a lesson that I unfortunately learned during my short foray into marriage with a man who could not handle my fascination with dark subjects, and certainly could not handle my moods. Basically, I trust the people I trust and who know me well. And I trust complete strangers with my own brand of weirdness. I will tell anyone that I have Bipolar disorder, but the rest of it I have to know you really well before I let on that I am not all sweetness and light :)

            Cocktails sound lovely this evening….sigh

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          • For that we would require a chronosynclastic infundibulum….sigh….

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          • okay…..I have a B of A. in Sociology and Psychology and I am pretty sure that I have never run into that term before……even when my father was a medical school professor……hmmmmm

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          • Kurt Vonnegut, “Sirens of Titan.” A good read. Chrono=time syn=with clastic=breaking infundibulum=small hollow space. Basically, it’s a physical state that breaks the rules of space and time in an orderly fashion. Better? Kind of like a Tardis, only more reliable.

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          • Okay, yes, better. Brain is no longer seizing, thank you :) is it a short story or a book? I am afraid that I am rather ignorant on the subject of Vonnegut…..

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          • It would be something of a macabre circus, i would imagine….

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